May 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

Online sales climb the charts by 30% at Musicnotes.com

Hitting all the right notes on its e-commerce site to drive sales up 30% through May, Musicnotes is playing out a strategy of building its web content and customer service. It also plans to at least double its number of downloadable songs in sheet music and guitar tablature.

Musicnotes Inc. is hitting all the right notes on its e-commerce site so far in 2008. A combination of building its content and customer service helped the web-only sheet music and guitar tablature retailer reach $3 million in online sales from January through early May.

The sales mark was a 30% increase compared with about $2.3 million in the prior-year period. Musicnotes.com sold almost 500,000 downloads in the first four months of the year, says Tim Reiland, chairman and chief financial officer.

“We continue to focus on adding great content and enhancing the customer experience,” Reiland says. “Musicnotes currently offers more than 75,000 downloadable songs and we plan to at least double that number in the years ahead.”

Musicnotes.com has reached a 4% conversion rate in large part because its sheet music content runs parallel to current pop music hits. And because the company is a publisher and retailer, publishing rights can be secured and music posted in days or weeks rather than weeks or months, Reiland says.

The site’s search functionality also contributes to its success, he says. The sheet music business has been historically inefficient, Reiland says, because shoppers often drive to a music store and don’t find what they seek. Online search facilitates finding the music, and streamlined ordering helps make the whole process easier on the shopper. Musicnotes uses site search technology from Omniture.

To enhance the shopping experience, the company added Google Checkout this year to its list of payment options that includes PayPal, and also rolled out online chat.

Musicnotes ventured into viral marketing late last year when it posted a video on YouTube.com of an employee demonstrating a voice-activated feature in its downloadable guitar lessons. The feature enables students to keep both hands on the guitar while interacting with the lesson. The demo has been watched more than 150,000 times, Reiland says.

The web site currently receives 80,000 unique visits a day, Reiland says. He cites traffic data from web measurement firm Hitwise indicating Musicnotes has more than a 70% share of the downloadable sheet music market.

The digital sheet music market so far has proven to be immune to the fluctuating U.S. economy, Reiland adds. “There is certainly no recession at Musicnotes. If anything, we have seen our growth accelerate in recent weeks.”

Musicnotes is in the early phase of developing an advertising-supported guitar and drum tablature web site called MXTabs.com. The company expects to announce details regarding the formal launch of the site soon.

billb@verticalwebmedia.com

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